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Trial and Error

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She's seen inside his head, so she knew he wasn't the right man for the job.

She weighed the options quickly as she watched him step into the room, like she'd been trained to do before they'd set her loose with him that day in Peach Trees. She could've asked for someone else, she guessed, begged a private conversation and told them he just wasn't going to work out the way they'd hoped, but the problem with that was although they believed in her abilities, she was pretty sure they wouldn't just take her word for it. She could've told him to refuse to go through with it, she guessed, or they could've refused to together, but the problem with that was she knew Dredd would never do it. Honestly, if it came to it, she wasn't sure that she would, either. They'd put it to her as her duty and okay, so she didn't know what was in the heads of the higher-ups who'd actually issued the orders, but the ones who'd said the words to her believed them.

She weighed the options quickly, just like she'd been trained to do, but all that training had come from the people who'd seen fit to bring him there. She knew she didn't have a choice. Neither of them did.

The room was stark and white and lit harshly from above, and though it looked like they were there alone, she knew they weren't. Maybe the veneer of privacy would help him, but it couldn't help her when she felt their minds swirling there in the control room, doctors and technicians, trying to maintain professionalism but every now and then their thoughts began to stray. He stepped into the room and she looked at him as she sat there, barefoot in a starchy white hospital gown that tied loosely in the back in a way that almost made her feel as naked as if she'd just worn nothing.

"Dredd," she said, because she wasn't sure what else to say.

"Anderson," he replied, because he wasn't sure what else to say, either.

And, after a moment that stretched and stretched and stretched until she almost felt she had to find new words to blurt out and break the silence, after a moment where he tried not to think a single thought and she tried to pretend he hadn't, a hidden speaker crackled to life.

"Please proceed," the doctor said, flatly. It didn't help to know the person in charge of their experiment was a woman. Looking at him as he clenched his fists instinctively then unclenched them again, slowly and deliberately, Anderson wasn't sure that much would help at all.

He was wearing his uniform. Anderson wasn't sure if he ever wore anything else, if she was honest - it was hard to imagine him in a pair of blue jeans and a polo shirt, or anything that wasn't his well-worn Hall of Justice-issue leathers, and at that precise moment she tried really hard not to. She watched him instead, feeling faintly sick about it as he peeled open the wrist strap of one glove and tugged it off by the fingers, baring one hand. There was nowhere in the empty white room to put it but the floor so he dropped it, then he pulled off the other. All he'd done was take off a pair of gloves and already Anderson's pulse was racing in her chest. She hated that a few inches of Dredd's bare skin could do that to her.

He unhooked his vest from off of his jacket. He unzipped his jacket where it attached to his pants, and he unzipped the front, and he shrugged it off. He bent down and unzipped his boots, and he toed them off and stepped out one by one. He pulled off his socks and stepped barefoot onto the shiny white tiled floor. He took off his beat-up leather pants, his fingers almost fumbling at them. Then, when he was standing there in just a black t-shirt and his tight-fitting underwear, then he reached up and removed his helmet. She didn't have to read his mind to tell he didn't want to do it.

He dropped into a crouch to set his helmet on the floor and he looked at her from there, balanced on the balls of his feet, helmet in his hands before he put it down, carefully, like it might break if dropped. Maybe she could've found out what he looked like underneath the helmet before then, if she'd wanted to and given it some thought, but she'd stopped herself short of that each time. Maybe she didn't wear one herself, because it screwed with her abilities, but that didn't mean she didn't understand what it meant to some of the others, how it unified them, anonymized them, hid them. She understood what it meant to Dredd, who'd never been anything except for this. But he ran one hand over his short brown hair and looked at her with his severe brown eyes and she felt her mouth twist wryly. He raised his brows. She shrugged. She couldn't've put that conversation into words, but it made a kind of sense to her that not much else there did.

He stood. He pulled off his shirt. He shucked off his shorts and he stood there, naked, his jaw set and his eyes averted, his hands balled into fists at his sides like he wasn't sure what else to do with them that didn't involve breaking them against the nearest wall. There were scars all over him, littering his skin, knife wounds and bullet wounds and other things she couldn't quite identify, though she gave it a few seconds' thought to see if any looked familiar. Maybe she could've read the origins of them in his mind, and she could've done it much more clearly without his helmet's light interference getting in her way, but she stopped herself before she could.

The speaker crackled. "Proceed," the doctor said, so Anderson took a breath then stood herself up. She reached back and untied the gown. She let it drop.

"Look at me," she said, so he looked at her. She saw the muscles in his jaw working tightly as he gritted his teeth, but he looked at her. His face was flushed. He was so totally and utterly the wrong man for the job that it almost seemed ridiculous that anyone had ever chosen him for it.

"You'll have to touch me," she said, so he came toward her. There was a familiar grimace on his half-familiar face as he lifted his hands up to her shoulders, where they hovered for a moment before his palms brushed against her skin. His hands were warm and his fingers callused, and he let his thumbs rub circles at her collarbones, but that wasn't what she'd meant.

"That's not what I meant," she said, and he frowned, and then so did she. "What did they tell you you're here for?" she asked, and his hands went tight at both her shoulders, almost too tight, almost tight enough to hurt.

"We're meant to have sex," he said. "To see if it affects what you can do."

She nodded. "That's right," she said. "So you're going to have to touch me."

So, he touched her. He rested his hands at her waist. He rested his hands at her hips. His hands skimmed her ribcage, skimmed her breasts, and when she ran one of her own hands down over his chest, down his taut abdomen to the base of his cock, he bared his gritted teeth and took a sharp breath through them. He went still but didn't stop her as she wrapped her fingers around him. He didn't stop her as she stroked him, and she felt him start to stiffen in her hand. By the time he was fully erect, his thick cock was almost as flushed as his face was.

She went to the bed. It was the only piece of furniture present in the room, a metal frame painted bright white with a firm mattress, two limp pillows and tough, bleach-white sheets. She lay back, her hair splayed out around her head that she knew looked dull as straw under the too-bright lights, and when she turned her head and looked at him, he joined her slowly. He moved over her, on top of her, the tip of his cock brushing wetly against her hip. She pulled her knees up, feet flat to the mattress that had barely flinched at their combined weight, and cradled his hips between her thighs. He looked at her, sharply, hyperreal under the bleak lights. He was the last man on Earth they should've ordered to do this, but there he was, obedient. He was the last man on Earth they should've ordered to do this, but she couldn't help but feel glad that it was him and no one else.

"Proceed," the doctor said, abruptly, and Dredd took a slow, unsteady breath. She couldn't help but know the thoughts he had when he was so damn close to her, and so she knew the things she knew he wasn't saying; he understood the biology of this, and he'd seen it happen more than once in the line of duty, but his life had always been entirely for the Hall of Justice. When he shifted his weight onto one forearm and he rubbed his cock between her thighs, when he rubbed the tip against her clit then pushed it back, when he paused there and then slowly pushed inside her, it was the first time that he'd done it. It was her third. Frankly, as he entered her, as he inched inside as deep as he could go, it was already ten times better than times one or two.

He pushed up from his forearms onto his hands and he moved in her. She wrapped her legs around his waist and gripped the painted metal bars above her in the headboard, and she watched him as he moved in her. He did it so slowly that she was surprised by it but then again maybe she shouldn't have been - she'd imagined he'd want to get it over with quickly, but the way his muscles flexed with such control, the way he winced and looked away each time he accidentally caught her eye, the way his shoulders tensed as he fucked her slowly, maybe it wasn't what she'd imagined, but that control was everything she should've expected.

She slipped one hand between the two of them, found her clit and rubbed at it. She felt her hips shifting against him of their own accord, taking him in deeper. He pressed his mouth against her neck and she shivered at it unexpectedly. His mind was open to her, wide open, as open as any mind had ever been when its owner had known what she could do, but she knew there was nothing more, nothing truly different, nothing special the way the team behind the wall had wanted it to be, as if somehow sex had been meant to magically enhance her abilities. When she shuddered against him, under him, holding on tight to him, when she felt herself pull tighter then flush hot with her release around him, nothing new or special happened. She didn't reach new dizzying heights of psychic power. She just felt guilty that he'd been dragged into this against his will.

And when he came in her, his jaw clenched so hard his neck stood out in cords, every muscle straining but still somehow silent with it, there was nothing else. All it was was sex. Sex while a team of scientists monitored their heart rates, and their blood pressure, and every move they made. She refused to feel ashamed of that and hoped that he would, too.

He caught his breath against the crook of her neck and then he sat back on his heels. He pulled out of her and, just for a second, he looked her in the eye. But, as he left the bed, as he put on his clothes, as he left the room, he didn't say a word. The doctors let him go and thirty minutes later they let her go, too; all she could infer from that was the experiment was over, and they had the disappointing data that they'd wanted from it. As much as they'd had high hopes for sex making her into some kind of superhuman and not just a talented mutant from a home too close to the radiation boundary, it hadn't worked. She wasn't sure if she wished it had or not, but she left that place feeling empty.

Today's the first time they've seen each other since, at least more than just in passing. She saw him three weeks ago, riding by, and caught a flash of something only he of all the judges might have ever seen, so she knew for sure that it was him. She saw him ten days ago, too, running by in the opposite direction, him chasing his perp and her chasing hers - she wanted to call out, or she wanted to go after him, she wanted to find him afterwards, but her better judgment got there first.

Today's the first time they've seen each other since, waiting together in the Hall of Justice. She looked at him and she knows he was looking at her though his helmet was firmly in the way, but before she could find words, any words, not even just the right ones, he was called away and all that she could do was watch him go. Tonight, though, she's finally got the better of her better judgment.

"Anderson," he says, when he opens the door to his apartment. She can see his uniform jacket and his armored vest on hangers on a hook just by the kitchenette, with his boots sitting underneath them. He's still in his leather pants and shirt though he's barefoot, and his fucking helmet's there in place like he's put it back on just to greet her, but it's still the most casual she's ever seen him. She wonders idly if he owns any clothes that didn't come with the job. She doesn't own many herself and she has nothing like his dedication, so she guesses the answer is probably no.

"Dredd," she replies. "Can I come in?"

He stares silently for a moment like he might ask her why, then stands aside and lets her come in past him. She figures he figures it's better than having a conversation in an unsecured hallway, and he locks the door behind them as if to prove that point.

"What do you want, Anderson?" he asks her, and honestly she doesn't know. She had grand plans to argue with him at the door about why he wouldn't let her past it, but he's let her in already and now she's left without a semblance of a plan at all.

All she can think to say is, "I didn't ask for you." She frowns at herself, at her complete lack of clarity. "The experiment. I didn't ask for you."

He folds his arms over his chest. "I know," he says, and effectively takes the wind back out of her sails with those two words. Her frown deepens.

"I'm sorry," she says. "I know you didn't want to. It wasn't my idea."

He tilts his chin up slightly, almost petulant or at least she'd say so if she didn't know him any better. "I know," he says, and she scowls.

"Are you avoiding me?" she asks.

"No," he replies.

"It feels a lot like you are."

"It's a big city."

She sighs. She rakes her fingers through her hair, exasperated, but she's not sure why she expected anything else than that. She turns away. She rests her forehead down against the thick metal plate reinforcing the back of Dredd's apartment door, and they both stand there in silence. The soundproofing in there must be really good, she thinks, because she can barely hear the streets below at all. All she can hear is the surface of Dredd's thoughts brushing there against her brain, all work and ammunition calibers and then something else beneath that.

"What do you want, Anderson?" he asks her again, and she sighs again, her breath fogging the chilly steel plate. She knows what she wants, because she's thought about it every night since they were there together in that fucking white room. She wants him, like having him will prove something, to herself if no one else, like having him means she has a choice or ever had one.

"Anderson," he says, and she turns expecting a fight, verbally if maybe not quite physically, but the fight doesn't come. When she turns, he's already in the middle of taking off his helmet, and she watches him set it down deliberately and carefully on the kitchen counter, though she suspects it usually sits at the side of his bed. She raises her brows and he shrugs his response, and somehow she feels that's kind of eloquent.

When he kisses her, it's hard and not quite right and unexpected. He tries again with his fingers in her hair, like he's determined that his total inexperience just won't stand in their way, or more likely just in his. The second time is better, and the third is better still, then he drops his mouth to the crook of her neck and presses her back against his cold apartment door.

She's wearing a skirt because she can and because she likes to sometimes, not for any other reason, but there's a moment when his bare hands find their way underneath it and all she can think is how that skirt was the best idea she's had in weeks. His blunt fingers fumble at her underwear and oh God, oh God, they brush the place where her lips meet, they part them, and they find that she's already wet because of him. When he pulls his shirt up underneath his arms and pushes down his pants, baring himself from chest to knee, he's already hard. They're not under orders. It's all for her.

He's strong enough that when she hops up and wraps her legs around his waist, he can hold her there, her back pressed to the door. He's strong enough that when he enters her, pushing deep in one sharp thrust that takes her breath away quite literally, his knees don't buckle with it. He has her there, breathing harshly against her still clothed collarbone, one hand gripping at her thigh and the other pressed hard against the door. He fucks her in short, sharp thrusts with her fingers pressing at his back, slipping at his heated skin. He fucks her till she's almost dizzy with it, with the mix of how it feels to her and how it feels to him inside his head that buzzes all around her. He thinks he's proving something by doing this. She's not sure he's not.

When he comes in her, he groans out loud and doesn't try to hide it. For a moment after, as he breathes against her, she doesn't understand why and how he's let go of his control like this, but then he slips his fingers to her clit and he rubs her, inexpertly but tenaciously, and it doesn't take much until she comes as she rides his still hard cock. She gasps in a breath and he thumbs her through it. And, when they're done and he pulls back, she thinks maybe she understands it after all.

"I didn't ask for you," she says again, as he's pulling his t-shirt up and off over his head.

He looks at her sideways while he's stepping out of his pants, too. "I know," he replies, like he's curious to see where this is going. "I was told."

She leans back against the door. She rests her head against it and she tucks her hands behind her back as she looks at him across the room.

"Would you have come if I had asked for you?" she asks, and he looks at her. Out of his uniform, naked, scarred and bruised, he doesn't look much like the best-known, most-hated judge in their whole sprawling mess of a city. He looks like a man who's spent a long time alone, with a job that's who he is and not just what he does. He looks like a man who's cheated death a dozen times but has nobody to celebrate that with.

"Yes," he replies. And she doesn't need to see inside his head to know he means it.

Dredd's too set in his ways to share his bed and it's only a single anyway, but it's late and she's tired so she takes the couch. He finds her a blanket to sleep under and one of his black t-shirts to sleep in, which she appreciates. They don't share the bed but they share the apartment and that means something to her she's not sure she can articulate. He looks at her from the bedroom door before he turns out the light, with his helmet still sitting there on the kitchen counter. His trust doesn't come cheap and she knows that. Frankly, neither does hers.

She closes her eyes. Slowly, she allows herself to drift to sleep.

She's seen inside his head, so she knows he wasn't the right man for the job.

He wasn't the right man for the job. But that doesn't change the fact he was the only one.